Had a wonderful conversation with a very interesting man the other day.
He’s been a musician all his life, and in the 60s and 70s played with a couple of show bands as well as doing work with pit orchestras for shows.
We were speaking on the motivational power of music.
Among his favourites, were the themes from “Rocky” and a little heard version of “Clare to Here“ by Red Hurley.
In the realm of training for fitness, there is a great case for music to train to; the “Rocky” theme is a universal favourite, as is “I will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.
They’re songs of triumph over adversity, and of course that’s what hard training is about; overcoming the mental persuasion to resist the seduction of the easy option.
Both songs have an up-tempo rhythm too, which, along with the lyrics of self assertion and wilfulness, are great motivators for training.
This isn’t some new discovery. In the 60s, in a gym in Southeast London, to which I went on Saturday afternoons, the recording of Duke Ellington‘s “Night Train“ was played over and over again. This was alternated with up-tempo Chuck Berry numbers.
It was in an old fashioned gym of those times.
The premises had been a storeroom, of about 2000 ft.². It had a wooden floor and punch bags hung from the high ceiling at various points.
The main exercises done were skipping, bag punching, and training with an assortment of fairly light barbells and dumbbells, which lay in a corner for those who wanted to use them
The showers were just off the main floor, a smallish room with concrete floor and a huge outlet for the waste water at one corner.
The source of water came from the mains, through a 4 inch flexible pipe bent into two large covered buckets, which overhung the middle of the small room. When you wanted to shower, you went in, turned on the mains, and stood under one of the buckets, which had small punched holes in the bottom. As the stone cold water pelted onto you with a force that would nearly peel the skin from your body, it made the whole process an exhilarating experience
The other musical number played in that premises was a rousing version of ‘Woodchoppers’ Ball’, by the Woody Herman Band.
I paid two shillings and sixpence for the use of the gym’ on Saturday afternoons. I stopped using it after about three months. The owner was a forward-thinking man and refurbished the place with a carpet, chrome equipment and six shower cubicles, along with a designated changing area.
Up to then we’d changed wherever there was a space, usually somewhere around the edge of the premises, never taking your eye off your gear, and bringing valuables to the owner, who’d put them in a box with a padlock, and give you the key, which you then brought back to him when you were leaving, to retrieve your goods and go.
The advent of the chrome and carpets, not to mention the real tank-fed showers, changed the place. The bags were done away with, and with a carpet only floor, there was no place for any skipping.
When I stopped going, I was able to replace it with a kind of gym’ of my own.
I was living in a ground-floor bed-sit at the time. I had access to the back yard and a small well-kept garden, kept green and tidy by my very elderly land-lady. She had no objection to my skipping in the yard, and using my ‘Bullworker’ ( remember them?) in the garden.
And being a generation or two older than me, was fully tolerant of my vinyl discs from the Big Band Swing era of the thirties and forties and fifties, played at full volume.
The styles of music and the fashions have changed, but the principle is unshakeable.
Long may it continue.